Microsoft plots City Hall take over with CHIP-bot

The City of Los Angeles has unleashed a new Microsoft-powered bot on their citizens, fielding more than 14,000 queries and reducing email enquiries by 50%.

CHIP, short for “City Hall Internet Personality,” is resident on Los Angeles’s Business Assistance Virtual Network (BAVN), and was created by two city developers in just three days, with training from Microsoft and access to its Cortana platform, its Azure bot framework and the Microsoft Azure government cloud.

CHIP helps around 180 people per day and has slashed emails to BAVN from 80 a week to 30 or 40, meaning the city can get by with less staff. CHIP can answer over 700 questions, and due to an extensible platform and API can connect to any data or back-end system, and will in the future be able to do even more.

“CHIP is an anytime, anywhere resource to understand how to do business with the city,” said Los Angeles CIO Ted Ros. “When you have a city of over 4 million people it’s impossible to bring everyone into a football stadium all at once to talk to them. Technology is the platform in which we engage people.”

CHIP has been such a success the city is already looking to add new bots, having already used one internally to induct new staff during the May Day protest response, and the city is thinking of adding a bot to answer questions during tax season.

“As we do new initiatives, this — it’s the type of service, a gadget, a widget you can put up on the new website,” Ross said, emphasizing that residents don’t want to click through a clunky website anymore, thus the move enabling Chip’s intent to allow “access to information in a very useable format.”

Read more about CHIP at Govtech.com here.

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